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Aku, Bunga: "I Am Just Me"

by Helmy Sa'at

Aku, Bunga’ is available to watch on Qalbox (*Territories apply). New users enjoy a 7-day free trial, which also gives access to the full features of the Muslim Pro app ad-free! Claim your free trial today!

Unrequited love. Money. Family deceit. A house fire stemming from an evil scheme. All of it wrapped up into a love triangle. In the middle of it all is Bunga, a young woman with big dreams and even bigger talent.

Will love stand in her way of chasing her dreams? Is her unresolved family issues that have been holding her back all along? Or, in actuality, is she the one being the biggest hurdle to herself on her journey to hip hop music stardom?

Hip Hop In Hijab And Baju Kurung

A still from Aku, Bunga, which is available to stream on Qalbox.

Atypical character for a young Muslim woman living within the parameters of a rather conservative Muslim community. Working as a helper at her father’s dessert stall during the day and dabbling in hip hop at night. Bunga does not succumb to the rules of a patriarchal society in both spheres whereby her father is supposed to be the leader in the family and the hip hop scene is generally dominated by men.

Aku, Bunga (I Am, Bunga) seeks to break such stereotypes, especially associated with Muslim women by chipping away at the surface and revealing the many facets of any Muslim woman. Her dreams and aspirations. Her talents, needs and wants. And, in this film, what Bunga is able to do and achieve when she is left unconstrained by society’s biases and prejudices that usually have their roots in lacking of understanding compounded by the almost non-existent urge to understand in the first place. This was summarily captured by Bunga’s father’s observation of her young daughter’s proclivity towards rapping: “Itu menyanyi ke apa tu? Nak bercakap tak, nak cakap menyanyi, hmpfh?!” (“Is that singing or what? Not really talking, not singing either, hmpfh?!”)

Later, a social rebuke of the above-mentioned is delivered through Bunga’s female best friend to Shaq, Bunga’s love interest, who has very little knowledge about the local hip hop scene: “Google aje nama 10 artis hip hop yang terkenal kat Malaysia, settled.” (“Just Google the top 10 names of hip hop artistes in Malaysia, settled.”)

Bunga’s love for music, hip hop in particular, does not stop her from pursuing it though she wears the hijab and traditional clothes such as the baju kurung, which are anchored in modest fashion. Instead, this made her stronger. The multiplicity of her identities, as a young Muslim Malaysian woman, who is also a rapper in the making work to her advantage instead of casting her out altogether.

A still from Aku, Bunga, which is available to stream on Qalbox.

As her male best friend, Kahoe reminded her: “Kau kena practise lah, baru lah boleh mantap kan. Imej kena jaga. Tau. Itu kalau kau nak pergi jauh lah. Kalau.” (“You have to practise, then it is possible to be good. You need to take care of your image. You know. That is if you want to go far. If.”) A double-edged sword indeed. Her unique identity partly on display through her modest fashion is what makes her different, interesting and a value-add to the local hip hop scene. Ultimately, what makes her unique could also just be a temporary allure as she needs to support her talent with discipline and hard work in order to make an impact in the industry, in the long run. If she chooses to do so.

The rapping scenes in the film seem to have been almost like an afterthought in the plot development though it mirrors Bunga’s life trajectory as other issues crept up and overshadowed her musical passion. It nevertheless shows the audience that rapping serves as a healthy avenue for Bunga to channel her frustrations when she carved out time for it.

The bottomline is: There is no hiding who we are, other than staying true to ourselves. This sentiment was perfectly captured in a verse of Bunga’s rap during a hip hop contest – “Aku cuma aku.” (“I am just me.”)

Love All Around: “I Am Just Me”

Take it or leave it. Do we have to change ourselves for love? There seems to be no one right answer. One thing that is apparent to Bunga as she is faced with a multitude of hurdles is that love requires sacrifices. Be it for Shaq, or her music.

Love has and would never be limited to a very myopic style and approach, which Shaq also painfully learned from his mother:

Mummy bakar rumah Bunga?” (“Mummy, you burn Bunga’s house?”)

Itu aje cara yang terbaik untuk kita semua, Shaq.” (“That is the best solution for all of us, Shaq.”)

Tapi untuk siapa?” (“But for whom?”)

Untuk Syaq, untuk mummy, untuk Bunga dan bapa Bunga.” (“For you, for me, for Bunga and her father.”)

Patutlah daddy tinggalkan mummy. Mummy hati kering.” (“It is no wonder that daddy left you. You are cold-hearted.”)

Tak perlu nak sebut nama orang yang tak reti bersyukur.” (“There is no need to mention the name of someone who does not know to be grateful.”)

Apa yang mummy buat ni berdosa.” (“What you have done is sinful.”)

Ini bukan dosa, Shaq. Ini adalah cinta.” (“This is not sin, Shaq. This is love.”)

A still from Aku, Bunga, which is available to stream on Qalbox.

Cinta or love has many forms and its manifestations could at times be twisted and demented suffering from delusions to justify one’s choices and behaviours. As adults, we have grown to learn that fairytales are often elusive and belong exclusively to the domain of fiction.

Still, the key to happiness and love is one’s self-determination. Bunga’s late mum’s wise words would serve us, the audience, well : “Jangan sedih-sedih. Hidup kita ni sebenarnya mudah, indah bergantung bagaimana kita melihatnya.” (“Do not be sad. Our life is actually easy, beautiful as it depends on how we perceive it.”)

After all, there is no growth without pain and life is certainly full of it whether justly or otherwise.